Missing out on LOVE

Yesterday was one of the biggest days my little bookshop has had in awhile. I’m not talking sales-wise or even traffic-wise. I’m thinking about the main reason why I worked so hard to open an independent bookshop from scratch: to meaningfully connect my community with books that would change their lives.

A picture book about love

Hands down, yesterday was a day that changed lives. We hosted the multiple-award-winning creators Matt de la Peña and Loren Long (Google them—even people who don’t read too often have encountered their works or their characters). Their new book, LOVE, is intensely beautiful and meaningful, one of those picture books that would really touch the hearts of adults as well as small children. We were able to introduce hundreds of students and community members to these thoughtful, creative people.

Being involved in community initiatives

Avid Bookshop used to be just me: I would try to attend every event and every school visit (where we bring authors and/or illustrators to local schools). As the business has grown, I’ve been able to hire people who specialize in event planning and school engagement. I am no longer needed when it comes to planning the nitty-gritty details of the programs we offer, but I want to be there. I know it’s good for the company to have me there—it gives yet one more personal touch to our highly creative, hands-on approach to community initiatives.

The day got started very early for visiting the author-illustrator team and the Avid booksellers who helped out. Our Avid in Schools initiative does many things, one of which is bringing authors and illustrators to schools in our community. We work with media specialists (librarians) to arrange for presentations at schools. Loren Long and Matt de la Peña gave energetic and energizing presentations to hundreds of school kids at two Athens-area schools, and then they somehow had enough fuel left to put on one more show at the local public library.

An unforgettable event

Here’s the type of thing I heard about the day’s events:

“So many students audibly gasped or turned to each other when [de la Peña] shared that he was Mexican-American. This is why author visits are so important. These moments when kids see themselves in someone else. This entire visit was magical.” -a librarian at a local school

“There were too many amazing moments to even begin to mention, but everyone who was lucky enough to be at any of these events will never forget. I have never seen that many elementary students sit absolutely still, totally engrossed in what Loren and Matt were sharing with them. Simply magical!” -a publisher rep who was able to attend the presentations

Missing out

Guess where I was during all this? Home, not feeling good. Oddly enough, I didn’t even have a migraine, but missing out on one of the best days of my bookshop’s life is certainly something I’m familiar with, and usually migraine is the culprit.

Working with migraine

Usually I calm my frustration and sadness by reminding myself that I have a great team of coworkers who have been expertly trained to manage big events. If it weren’t for Avid Bookshop, these students wouldn’t be meeting nearly as many authors and illustrators. My business is having true, lasting impact on my community. My being chronically ill means I have to have more people in management roles to be able to not only do their jobs but to pinch-hit for me when I cannot do mine. I’m lucky. I know how rare it is for someone whose health is similar to mine to be able to craft a dream job like this.

But dang.

Yesterday was a bummer.

Hard to console yourself

I wanted to be there, to be part of the love. I wanted to work that 13-hour day, filled with adrenaline and joy and appreciation for the magic that is a beautiful picture book. I wanted to see the kids’ faces light up, and I wanted to hear firsthand the heart-stoppingly beautiful things they said about what love meant to them.

I missed it. Part of me knows that I’m one of the many reasons that allowed this day to happen in the first place, but right now that isn’t much consolation for me.

Have you ever missed a really meaningful work day, one of the days that reminds you and your peers why you do your job in the first place? What did you miss, and how did you console yourself?

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